It’s not every day a patient gets a chance to have a heart-to-heart chat with the province’s health minister about their medical care.
But North York resident Malcolm Koss got that opportunity last Thursday when Health Minister Deb Matthews visited the Branson site of North York General Hospital to officially open the Centre for Complex Diabetes Care.
On the third floor of Branson, on Finch Avenue, west of Bathurst Street, it is the only program in the Central Local Health Integration Network focusing on patients with complex diabetes. The Central LHIN oversees health-care planning for an area stretching from North York and the former city of York north to Lake Simcoe.
Because the centre provides comprehensive care, patients have access to a nurse, nurse practitioner, dietician, social worker, pharmacist and chiropodist. Care is provided in collaboration with the patient’s family doctor or primary care provider.
Koss, 64, has had diabetes for 30 years and lost his left leg below the knee due to complications of the disease.
He told Matthews being in the program has made a huge difference in his life.
“Before I came here, I had little or no control over my diabetes. These guys really worked hard with me,” said Koss, who has been in the program for more than two months.
“Before this, there is nothing out there (to provide diabetics with comprehensive care). You’re on your own. For someone like me, it is invaluable. I was lost. I was sitting at home, not suicidal, not waiting to die...but I was too far gone. They (the team at the centre) have made me realize I have years left.”
Koss was referred to the program by a cardiologist after he went to North York General suffering from fluid on his lungs. He is also experiencing problems with his right foot due to diabetes.
“I’m an intelligent person but I wasn’t able to take care of myself and that takes a number on you,” he told Matthews.
Before participating in the program, Koss had seen his family doctor about once every six months but gave up because he found the occasional care wasn’t helping him manage his diabetes.
He comes to the centre at Branson once a week.
“It’s not just, ‘Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,’” he said. “They have really given me some important tools to get on with my life.”
Not only does the program benefit patients but it will save OHIP millions of dollars, Koss predicted.
Matthews said she is impressed with the care six centres for complex diabetes care across the province are providing.
“This is an idea, we’re learning, that is making a real difference to people,” she said.
“It’s so great to hear directly from you (Koss).”
Providing better diabetes care is a priority for the government as more Ontarians are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, associated with inactivity and obesity.
“We know the path is up, not down. We need to work on that,” Matthews said. “We need to provide excellent care for people with diabetes.”
North York General president, Dr. Tim Rutledge, said the diabetes centre plays into the hospital’s goal of providing patients with integrated, multi-disciplinary health care.
The program was also praised by the centre’s director, Anna Tupis, and Dr. David Kaplan, the Central LHIN’s primary care lead and diabetes lead.